A single man's on the corner
waiting for the express bus
to come. It's cold out. He
dips down deeper into
his coat, the huge green
overcoat he bought used for
$10 from a Polish bouncer
down on his luck. I called
him a man, but he's 17,
working evenings and weekends
in a surplus store on Linwood
watching the tough guys stealing
whatever they want and giving him
the stare that says, Open your
mouth and you will be sorry.
What's he care if they get
a couple pairs of rusted pliers,
socket wrenches in metric
sizes? Boss drives a pre-war
Packard Twelve and has three
different businesses all making
money faster than he can
spend it buying drive shafts stolen
from the old Hudson assembly plant
on East Grand. Our man is on
his way to his mother's
for an overdone roast with
his two older brothers, both in
college, both aiming at bigger
things, both married to the wrong
women, as they won't discover
for twenty more years when
it's almost too late. Twenty years
from now he'll remember
none of this. Not because
he smokes too much or drinks
too much or because he'll step
out in the path of a semi.
No, because he doesn't see how
important the day is, not even
when the bus comes and he climbs
on, his glasses fogging over,
and drops his dime in the box,
not even when the hazel-eyed
girl from Sacred Heart smiles
up at him and slides over
closer to her sister to make
room for him, and he sits
beside her, tucking the skirts
of the green coat under his
suddenly sweating legs as he
turns to the girl to thank her
and feels something like lightning
strike between the hurried beats
of his heart as he studies
the two wide-opened eyes studying
him, the delicate nose, the perfect
mouth which in her entire lifetime
has never uttered a single sentence
you or I or he would ever care to hear.
When she rises at last to leave
he doesn't stop her or even try,
though she waits. Instead he waits
for his own stop and walks
the familiar blocks to where
people expect him. At last
the snow that's held itself
inside the gray clouds begins to
fall, a curtain separating every
living thing between the Seven
Mile Road and the Outer Drive
from every other living thing.

:: Philip Levine, in Five Points 3:2, Winter 1999

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